Pac-12 North Sleeper: How Washington State Cougars Can Shock the World and Win the Conference

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October 27, 2012; Stanford, CA, USA; Washington State Cougars wide receiver

Dominique Williams

(80) catches a touchdown pass in front of Stanford Cardinal cornerback

Alex Carter

(25) during the second quarter at Stanford Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

5: The same offensive principles apply, WSU will have to outgun their opponents and they’re well-equipped to do it. They don’t have a 1,000 yard rusher at running back like Black was, but they possess several that are good enough to combine for 1,000 yards of total offense on the season, obviously including the passing game. If they can do that, WSU will have a chance. Theron West has grown into an emotional leader and Jamal Morrow is being tabbed as the most explosive player as just a redshirt freshman. Not to mention one of the guys I think will come on strong as Fall camp gets going to ultimately earn back his starting spot, Marcus Mason.

4: This receiving corps, tabbed by most Pac-12 experts as the best group this conference has to offer, must come through. There is some kind of incredible combination of youth and experience in this group that has Gabe Marks, WSU’s leading receiver last season, on the 2nd-unit as we begin Fall camp. Full of play-makers, this group is huge, strong, fast and ready to absolutely demolish the Pac-12 DB’s that will be trying with all of their heart and soul to just make it difficult for WSU to score. And that, my friends, will not be easy. I have a feeling Vince Mayle, Dom Williams, River Cracraft and the rest of the guys are going to set some Pac-12 records as a unit.

3: The defense has to factor in, and in a somewhat major way. The nice thing is that they won’t have to control most ball games. They may not even need to be able to win momentum a majority of the time. But Darryl Monroe, Xavier Cooper and Toni Pole need to become All-Pac-12 caliber players. It would also help if Ngalu Tapa comes in and puts forth a big freshman season like I expect him to in the middle and Daquawn Brown needs to lead the ‘D’ emotionally. They will all need to come up with some crucial stops and in at least two games, possibly three, somewhere down the line they will have to win it for the team. This is how it was in 1997. That defense did not stop many, but against Southern Cal and Oregon, they stepped up big-time and they had a couple all-conference guys.

2: I am expecting the biggest season WSU (possibly even the NCAA) has ever seen from Connor Halliday. But he has to find a way to throw less than 18 interceptions on the season and preferably less than 15. For the amount of times he throws the ball, I’m not worried about a high number of interceptions and neither should you. Ryan Leaf threw 11 in 1997 and probably threw it 150-200 times less than Halliday will this year. But that doesn’t mean the Cougars can survive a barrage of picks by their most important player. And it wouldn’t take much, quarters like the ones the had against OSU (4th) and Auburn (2nd, 4th) last season simply must be eliminated. Bad things will happen, but piling onto the defense with crucial mistakes will kill any shot of a dream season.

1: Of course the Cougs must beat USC and Arizona at home while also defeating either Oregon at home or Stanford down in Palo Alto. They could still have an unbelievable season losing both of these games, but a win in this duo of games would put them on the fast-track to the top 3 and give them at least a glimmer of hope towards a possible North title. My money’s on Oregon because of the way it sets up for both teams, but the gap between Stanford and WSU has closed significantly between the game we played in Seattle and right now. I legitimately think both are winnable football games. Much like the 1997 season, the Cougs don’t have to win down at ASU to get this done either. They could lose two and the competitiveness in the conference could help them more than it would have in years past.

This team could be special folks. Even if they don’t win a Pac-12 title, this could be a season to remember out on the Palouse!

Go Cougs!